It's unanimous: No National League rookie was better in 2015 than the Cubs' Kris Bryant.
Bryant received all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to become the 11th unanimous winner of the Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year Award, beating fellow finalists Matt Duffy of the Giants and Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates. Bryant is just the 20th rookie in either league to sweep the balloting since the award debuted in 1947.
"It's been just an incredible year for me," Bryant said after the result was announced on MLB Network
The third baseman is the sixth Cubs player to be named BBWAA Rookie of the Year, an award that debuted with Robinson winning for both leagues. Since 1949, one rookie in each league has been honored, including the Cubs' Billy Williams in 1961, Ken Hubbs in 1962, Jerome Walton in 1989, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Geovany Soto in 2008.
Bryant, 23, previewed his breakthrough by belting nine home runs in 14 Spring Training games, but had to wait until April 17 for a call-up to Chicago. In 151 games, Bryant led Major League rookies with 99 RBIs, 31 doubles, 87 runs scored and wins above replacement (6.5 per the FanGraphs measure, and 6.0 per Baseball-Reference.com). He tied the Dodgers' Joc Pederson for the most homers among rookies with 26, and he finished second to Pederson's 77 walks. The only other player in Major League history to reach at least 26 homers, 99 RBIs, 31 doubles, 87 runs and 77 walks in his rookie season was Hall of Famer Ted Williams, for the Red Sox in 1939.
Bryant's 99 RBIs were the most by any NL rookie since the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman had 110 in 2006, and they included 17 game-winning RBIs. Since the turn of the century, only two rookies reached that number: Albert Pujols (21 in 2001) and Hideki Matsui (17 in '03)
Was Bryant fueled by the disappointment of missing the Cubs' Opening Day cut?
"You know, that time was a little different for me," Bryant said. "But I [stepped] back and realized this was the game that I grew up loving. You fall back on that. The whole business side, you don't really need to focus on that. If you just focus on playing for the love of the game, then all that stuff will take care of itself.
"I just went out there, played as hard as I can with a little chip on my shoulder. Things turned out great. We won, we went really far in the playoffs and I think we surprised a lot of teams. I think moving on from this season, the future is so bright for this team."
Saying he exceeded his own expectations, Bryant batted .275 (154-for-559) during the regular season with a .369 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage. With NL Rookie of the Month honors in May and August, he became only the second Cubs rookie to earn multiple honors in a season (Soto, twice in 2008).
Monday's honor was the second of this offseason for Bryant, who also won the Players Choice Award for the NL Outstanding Rookie.
In the American League, the Astros' Carlos Correa narrowly won the Rookie of the Year Award over fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor of the Indians.
Bryant said he aims to improve his contact rate in 2016 (his 30.6 percent strikeout rate was third-highest in the Majors) and hopes to build on what he views as a defensive step forward at third base last season.
After the Cubs won 97 regular-season games and made it to the NL Championship Series with Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler all playing significant roles as rookies, Bryant has another improvement in mind.
"I think there is a way to top this year, and that's to win a World Series," Bryant said. "We kind of got a taste of the playoffs this year and came up a little short. I think heading into next year, this whole experience is going to help myself and our whole team in general."